Change Management and Evolutionary Theory

Social sciences are becoming increasingly interested in Evolutionary Theory.

For instance, management research is making increasingly usage of the NK-Model.

However, Evolutionary Theory is only partially known by social scientists. In particular, the two following aspects have gone unnoticed hitherto:

  • Scholars point to organizational routines as the equivalent of genomes. However, nobody has ever exploited the similarity between organizational routines, that are sequences of actions, to connectionist concepts and tools that describe distributed memories in the brain as sequences of neuronal signals that circulate in closed loops. Organizational decision-making, organizational cognition and organizational culture can be better understood if connectionist concepts are employed.
  • Evolutionary dynamics includes non-trivial phenomena such as:
    1. Punctuated equilibria: Long periods where nothing happens punctuated by occasional revolutionary breakthroughs;
    2. Multi-level selection: Selective pressures may either operate on the organism, or on the species, or else;
    3. Exaptation: Traits that have been selected for a specific function may be used for a different function after some time.These and other features could be used to gain a better understanding of social and economic dynamics, yet to our knowledge little has been done in this sense hitherto.

A further difficulty is that substantial progress in the application of Evolutionary Theory to social sciences requires extensive computer simulations. With this course we want to teach concepts and tools that provide social scientists with opportunities to carry out innovative research based on evolutionary computational models. Assuming that students know the basics of computer programming, we would illustrate the following tools:

  • Unsupervised neural networks;
  • The NK model and the Tangled Hierarchies model.

Emphasis on computational tools will be complemented by due discussions of relevant psychological, sociological, economic and biological theories including:

  • Naturalistic Decision-Making;
  • Actor-Network Theory;
  • Technological Paradigms and Technological Trajectories;
  • Biosemiotics and Code Biology.

Students will be exposed to possibilities for carrying out empirical research, including:

  • Routines disruption with firm downsizing;
  • Jazz music as a source of data on organizational routines;
  • Understanding industry dynamics with the above features of evolution;
  • Improving either the NK or the Tangled Hierarchies Model.

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

  1. Apply connectionist concepts and tools (e.g., distributed/associative memory, unsupervised neural networks) to organizational routines;
  2. Apply evolutionary dynamics (e.g., punctuated equilibria, multi-level selection, exaptation) to social and economic contexts.

Level of participant

  • Master
  • PhD
  • Post-doc

For whom is the course designed

Inventive, adventurous, and interdisciplinary students of social and economic phenomena who have some basic knowledge of computer programming, who want to learn about computational tools than can make a difference if they are transposed into the social sciences.

Admission Requirements

Interdisciplinary interest and some ability to write computer code.

Admission Documents

  • Motivation letter
  • CV (please indicate your knowledge of computer language and/or writing code)


Monday 6 August – Friday 13 August 2018

Course leaders

Guido Fioretti
Researcher, Department of Management
University of Bologna, Italy

Paolo Sibani
Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy
University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

H.L. (Rick) Aalbers
Associate Professor, Departments of Business Administration
Radboud University

Tansu Celikel
Professor Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
Radboud University

Course Fee

The fee includes the registration fees, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.

Reduced Fee

€ 540   early bird discount- deadline 1 April 2018 (10%)
€ 510   partner + RU discount (15%)
€ 450   early bird + partner + RU discount (25%)

Number of ECTS credits

2 ECTS credits

More information:

Source: Change Management and Evolutionary Theory